Excerpt: 'Antique Roadshow Collectibles'

As your collection grows and you seek out and read specialty publications to learn more about your favorites, you may find that like all of us, you've made a few-well-mistakes or that you need to narrow or expand your focus. You may choose to weed out your duplicates or to give away or sell at auction, on eBay, or at a local show those pieces that no longer appeal to you or that no longer fit in with the focus of your collection. Eventually, if you work at it (for the dedicated collector, however, this really isn't work), your collection will someday be refined to the point that it contains only the things you really care about and really want to own. When it reaches this stage, it will probably have become a collection that other collectors admire, not just because it conforms with accepted standards, but because it also contains rarities, pristine examples, or early examples. You should be gratified, then, to know that you've assembled a good-maybe even a great-collection.

From a practical point of view, a good and satisfying collection is usually made up of collectibles that can be easily displayed and enjoyed. You want to be able to touch and handle your favorites, to show them to other collectors, or, at least, to be able to see them easily. It's not a satisfying collection if it has to be packed up and put away in boxes or a vault for safety's sake. What is more, a good collection is never so large that it makes your living room — or any other room — un-navigable.

Consequently, if you're new to collecting, try to pick some specialty that you can live with comfortably, not one that will make you feel anxious. Are you simply all thumbs? Don't decide to collect Italian glass. Do you have seven cats? Textiles may not be for you. Always be guided in your choice by a combination of aesthetics and practicality. It never hurts to check out a mate's preferences, either, before putting heart and soul into a collection of breweriana. It's not everyone, after all, who wants to entertain guests in a room full of Budweiser ads. One way to avoid making embarrassing or costly mistakes is to choose a collectible that hasn't been or isn't currently being reproduced. It's not too hard to determine if this has happened. Visit a reputable dealer or collector in your field (there are reference books at libraries that list clubs and dealers) and mention the word reproduction. Because specialists usually get pretty hot about reproductions (once an item is being copied, it clouds the whole field), they will often be happy to tell you how to recognize impostors. In fact, even the best can be taken in. Antique Roadshow appraiser David Rago comments, "This is an inexact science at best. Part of what makes experts experts is their willingness to learn from new experiences." Reproductions are particularly painful in the area of twentieth-century collectibles because scholarship is often so sparse that frequently collectors feel safer avoiding areas in which there are reproductions.

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